Learning to learn…

One of the things that disappoints me about all my time in education is that nobody actually taught me how to learn. Instead I had to stumble along, gradually trying to pick up what works for me. I guess I finally discovered how to learn during my PhD. What did I discover? That I learn in pretty much the same way as everyone else. Pity someone didn’t save me a few years and give me the heads-up a bit earlier. I read this quote from Dune recently,

“… because his first training was in how to learn. It’s shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.”

It’s actually pretty simple to push stuff from your short term to long term memory. All you have to do is,

  1. Read/revise a subject. Make sure you get a good understanding of the basic principles and some of the important facts surrounding the subject.
  2. About 2-3 days after learning something new, run quickly through that subject again. You don’t have to slave over it. You just have to do a quick pass through to jog your memory.
  3. After about a week of the second pass, do a third pass through the information.

In doing this, you’ve taken a very big step toward transferring that knowledge from your short term memory to your long term memory. It’s simple, but it takes effort!

But that’s just facts right? Yes, but as you learn more stuff you start to notice patterns and build relationships between those items, which help you to draw conclusions that others see as leaps of faith or moments of inspiration. Those gurus you look up to aren’t any cleverer than you. They’ve just made all the same mistakes you did, but a few years before you!

Just some idle thoughts before bed…



PS. If you dislike formal approaches to learning, just offer to teach a class on a topic. If you are a┬áconscientious teacher, you will make so many passes through the information before stepping in front of your students, it will be burnt into your brain forever. ­čÖé